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Back To Godhead, or Back To Serve?

Sunday, 30 December 2018 / Published in Articles / 5,026 views

By Kesava Krsna Dasa

If a devotee were to ask, “Please bless me so that I’ll never take birth again in this horrible material world,” would this be asking for some kind of liberation? Hundreds of times, Srila Prabhupada encouraged us to “Go Back home, back to Godhead.” Would it be a form of boldness or naiveté to desire to come back to this world and serve by preaching?

That would depend on our level of perception and spiritual progress. There were times when some disciples indicated to Srila Prabhupada that they would perhaps like to take birth again and help with preaching Krishna consciousness. Even then Srila Prabhupada would variously say, “Don’t try to come back…simply go back to Godhead.”

If going back to Godhead is what we must seek, then does this fare somewhat less to an ideal expressed by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur, as paraphrased by Srila Prabhupada: Nitya-dasa prati tuwa adhikara: “You have got every right to do whatever You think right in relation with Your servant. I am Your eternal servant.” Janmaobi moe iccha jadi tor: “If you so desire” — because a devotee goes back to Home, goes back to Godhead – therefore Bhaktivinoda Thakura proposes, “If You like that I shall again take birth, it doesn’t matter.”

Bhakta—grhe jani janma hau mor: “The only request is that if I have to take my birth, please kindly give me the chance of taking my birth in a devotee’s house.” Kita—janma hau jatha tuwa das: “I don’t mind if I am born as an insect, but I must be in the house of a devotee.” Bahir mukha brahma-janme nahi as: “I do not like non—devotee life.

Noticing that Srila Bhaktivinoda said, “…IF I have to take my birth…” in a mood of allowing Krishna to do whatever He wants, does this appear more surrender’ful than our ‘conditional’ Back to Godhead wish, as encouraged by Srila Prabhupada? We can look at this in different ways, and the way Srila Prabhupada emphasised it so much points in the right direction.

Here is one of many examples: “And after passing 5,000 years, we find so many difficulties, and the more we grow in this Kali-yuga, the days will be more and more difficult. So best thing is that you finish your Krishna consciousness business and go back to home, back to Godhead. That will save you. Otherwise, if we come back again, the difficulties, the difficult days are ahead. We have to suffer more and more.” (SB 1.8.32 – Los Angeles, April 24, 1973)

A daunting prospect of rebirth in Kali-yuga is discouraged. Srila Prabhupada also knew that most of us are rules and regulation types and will struggle mightily to ascend the path of devotion. For these reasons it would be an extraordinarily rare event to actually go back to Godhead, and the extraordinary is made clear and simple for us by him – and many devotees are going back to Godhead.

An interesting question can be raised at this point: Srila Prabhupada sometimes said that many of his disciples were sent by Krishna, or by his spiritual master Srila Bhaktisiddhanta to come and help him spread Krishna consciousness all over the world – from where did they come?

To have the desire to go back to Godhead, or not to ever take birth again in this world, is the correct thing for those of us who are unsure of our eternal position in Godhead. If we haven’t yet realised our spiritual identity, then better we pray to go back to Godhead where we might discover something wonderful. This is the greatest fortune.

Then there are those rare souls who are certain and assured of themselves spiritually. This certainty enables someone like Srila Bhaktivinoda to know that wherever he is in the material world, he is already in Godhead. “If one has a strong desire to serve the Lord, even if he accepts a material body, there is no cause of anxiety, since a devotee, even in a material body, is a liberated soul.” (SB 9.13.9 purport)

On this level, going back to Godhead or not, being in heaven or hell, are inconsequential so long as service or devotion is rendered in the company of devotees. “Even if I am born as a Lord Brahma. I want to remain with the devotees.” Bhukti-mukti—sprha vihina je bhakta: “I want such devotee who doesn’t care for material happiness or spiritual liberation.” Labhaite tako sanga anurakta: “ I simply desire to be associated with such pure devotees.”

And while serving with devotees an assured soul knows, “When he gives up his body, he goes directly to become an associate of the Lord and serve Him, although he does the same thing even in a material body in the material world.” (SB 9.13.9 purport)

If we try to express our desires to take birth again in this world without having the certainty and assurance of eternal spiritual grounding, we could be moving ahead of ourselves. This is why Srila Prabhupada encouraged a more realistic prospect of desiring to go back to Godhead. Besides, having a genuine realised desire to go wherever Krishna wants us to go, stems from relishing real taste for chanting Hare Krishna.

When Sri Gauranga Mahaprabhu says in the forth verse of Sri Sikastakam, “I only want Your causeless devotional service birth after birth,” He is – “By saying “life after life” (janmani janmani), the Lord referred not to an ordinary birth but a birth in which to remember the lotus feet of the Lord. Such a body is desirable.” (SB 9.13.9 purport)

According to Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s analysis in his writings like Sri Bhajana Rahasyam and others, this Siksastakam verse equates with having deep taste or Ruchi. In other words, someone possessed of this quality of spiritual progress can have more realisation when and if, the desire for rebirth arises, and is expressed with proper understanding.

It could be that one wants to go back to Godhead because – (SB 9.13.9 purport) “…whereas a nondevotee, having no engagement in the service of the Lord, is very much afraid of accepting a material body or giving up his present one,” could reflect some of the uncertainty. This uncertainty is due to not knowing one’s eternal relationship with Krishna, or even retaining or practicing impersonal concepts in the realm of personal service to the Lord and His devotees.

“Mahārāja Nimi continued: Māyāvādīs generally want freedom from accepting a material body because they fear having to give it up again. But devotees whose intelligence is always filled with the service of the Lord are unafraid. Indeed, they take advantage of the body to render transcendental loving service.” (SB 9.13.9)

To seek relief from material suffering and from bodily inconveniences in order to go back to Godhead, can be a selfish motive. Then again, we are encouraged to use this selfishness for a higher purpose. The fact that we somehow came here at – Anadi – time for some selfish reason, and now wanting some selfish relief, is well worth our effort in going back to Godhead.

At least having returned back to Godhead there will be some capacity to serve the Lord. And in that service one may want to come back down to the material world to help bring back other suffering souls – from an already liberated position. With an assured Godhead situation as this, who would not want to go back home, back to Godhead to render eternal loving service, either here, there or anywhere?

Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa – GRS.

Aspiration to Serve and Love Krishna (video)
Progressive Ambition (and unsatiated Lust)

6 Responses to “Back To Godhead, or Back To Serve?”

  1. pustakrishna says :

    I do not disagree with anything that Kesava Krishna das has written…but I want to add another perspective. When Srila Prabhupad introduced the Mahamantra to the West, he read some words from his Gurudeva, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur Prabhupad. In that speech, recorded early in the movement on record and tapes, our Srila Prabhupad said that one should chant the Holy Names like a small child crying for its mother. This is very suggestive of the helpless condition that we find ourselves in. What does this image suggest to you? Does it suggest confidence in one’s destination? Does it suggest that we have Krishna ‘in our pocket’? I think not.

    I think that there are different moods that any devotee can feel at different times. On the one hand, it is not ‘moksa-kama’ or over-zealous desire for liberation, to want to be with Krishna. That is the internal mood of the bhakta. This is not a desire to merge into ‘the light’ and become ‘one with the One’. Rather, it is an expression of reality, that I am Krishna’s and I hope that I might be acceptable to Him, despite my lack of devotion. And, the devotee must cultivate the feeling, and the reality, that Krishna is our protector.

    So, many moods can be expressed in Krishna consciousness, and they are not conflicting. Of course, we can always take the opposite position, and these positions are mutually agreeable.
    Hence, one can cure themselves of ‘moksa-kama’ by praying to become the servant of Krishna birth after birth, but also feel forlorn without Krishna and yearn to have His divine loving association. Pusta Krishna das

  2. Puskaraksa das says :

    Thank you very much to Kesava Krishna Prabhu for this interesting post on a very crucial subject.

    After I had left the top French business school I was in, to search for God, I studied various religions and philosophies of the world, and was blessed to study Bhagavad-gita as it is and Upadesamrita. Around that time (1977-78), I remember reading from some Tibetan Master (Lama) that the last obstacle along the path of liberation, is the very desire for liberation itself…!

    Buddhism culminating in the persons of the Bodhisattvas who voluntarily incarnate to liberate the conditioned souls, we can start drawing a parralel with our Vaishnava tradition…

    Srila Prabhupada, and a few other rare souls, are nitya-siddhas and willingly come down from the spiritual world, to liberate the jivas from their fallen condition and infuse them with Radha-Krishna bhakti…

    Their business is to take the jivas back home, back to Godhead (as Srila Prabhupada did put it) and they are concerned that their disciples do not maintain material attachements which may hold them back and force them to take birth over and over again…

    Hence, they “advertize” the spiritual world as the most desirable place to be, far beyond the heavenly planets which Srila Prabhupada indicated to be the destination which most of his disciples were hankering for!

    Besides, if we may take an example, as firemen are concerned with taking people out of a building on fire, they do not expect them to go back inside to assist them in liberating others, be it for lack of courage or of the necessary training, equipment and qualification… Similarly, a spiritual master is concerned that most of his disciples may go back to the spiritual world as soon as possible, without being willing to have them take the risk of taking birth again and becoming contaminated by the material energy…

    Henceforth, not everyone is called for filling up the position of Guru… The Guru’s business is to liberate his disciples. For that purpose, he has to be in the first place in a position to take them back to Godhead – otherwise, gurur na sa syat, one should not become Guru – and has to be willing to accept to take birth again to liberate those of his disciples who may not have made it…

    Hence, while most disciples are invited to head back to Godhead without looking back, a few empowered souls may be called for filling up the service of assisting their Guru in liberating others, on his order…

  3. Puskaraksa das says :

    Therefore, despite the fact that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and our exalted acaryas in his footsteps, such as Srila Narottama das Thakur, pray as follow:

    na dhanam na janam na sundarim kavitam va jagad-isha kamaye
    mama janmani janmanishvare bhavatad bhaktir ahaituki twayi

    O almighty Lord, I have no desire to accumulate wealth, nor do I desire beautiful women nor do I want any number of followers. I only want Your causeless devotional service, birth after birth.

    cakhu-dan dilo jei, janme janme prabhu sei, divya-jnan hrde prokasito
    prema-bhakti jaha hoite, avidya vinasa jate, vede gay jahara carito

    He opens my darkened eyes and fills my heart with transcendental knowledge. He is my Lord birth after birth. From him ecstatic prema emanates; by him ignorance is destroyed. The Vedic scriptures sing of his character.

    tandera carana-sevi-bhakta-sane vas, janame janame hoy ei abhilas

    This is my desire, that birth after birth I may live with those devotees who serve the lotus feet of these six Gosvamis.

    most of us are invited to meditate on going back home back to Godhead, as we may not be on the level of selflessly aspiring for ahaituki bhakti only, birth after birth…

    Hence, Srila Gurudeva mercifully tricks the conditioned souls and engages them in worship and seva, whatever be their initial condition:

    akamah sarva-kamo va, moksa-kama udara-dhih
    tivrena bhakti-yogena, yajeta purusam param

    A person who has broader intelligence, whether he be full of all material desire, without any material desire, or desiring liberation, must by all means worship the supreme whole, the Personality of Godhead.
    [SB 2.3.10]

    Nevertheless, as we grow in consciousness, our understanding of the philosophy and our personal realizations may become more and more refined and elevated and we may evolve both in our aspirations and in the way we present them…

    Henceforth, for instance, from the questioning of the famous line of Srila Prabhupada “work now, samadhi later” abrubtly and impatiently transcribed as “yes, but how much later ?”, one may evolve to a more humble and gentle presentation, such as Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur:

    tomāra saḿsāre, koribo sevana, nāhibo phalera bhāgī
    tava sukha jāhe, koribo jatana, ho’ye pade anurāgī

    tomāra sevāya, duḥkha hoya jato, se-o to’ parama sukha
    sevā-sukha-duḥkha, parama sampada, nāśaye avidyā-duḥkha

    pūrva itihāsa, bhulinu sakala, sevā-sukha pe’ye mane
    āmi to’ tomāra, tumi to’ āmāra, ki kāja apar

  4. Puskaraksa das says :

    …/… continued

    ki kāja apara dhane

    bhakativinoda, ānande ḍubiyā, tomāra sevāra tare
    saba ceṣṭā kore, tava icchā-mato, thākiyā tomāra ghare

    “I shall render service in Your household and not endeavor to enjoy the fruits of that service, but rather I shall strive for whatever pleases You, fully devoted to Your lotus feet.

    Troubles encountered in Your service shall be the cause of great happiness, for in Your devotional service joy and sorrow are equally great riches. Both destroy the misery of ignorance.

    I have completely forgotten all past history by feeling great joy in my mind. I am most certainly Yours, and You are indeed mine. What need is there of any other treasure?

    Bhaktivinoda, diving into the ocean of bliss, devotes all his efforts for Your service and dwells in Your house according to Your wishes.”

    Of course, one may also understand ‘Your house” as the material world, as everything belongs to Krishna and is meant for His enjoyment, including us…

    Hoping this finds you all well,
    I remain

    Your servant in the service of Sri Guru and Sri Gauranga

    Das dasanudasa
    Puskaraksa das

  5. Gopinatha Acarya Das says :

    Dear Prabhu,
    I’m sorry I did not read your article fully, but felt inpelled to share an experience (from memory) of hearing a lecture that His Divine Grace delivered in Sri Mayapur Dhama either in 1976 or 1977 during the annual Gaura Purnima festival.

    My Godbrothers who were present would no doubt remember that lecture and I stand to be corrected on the details.

    I cannot remember anything of the content or context of the class, but at one point (not too far into the lecture) Srila Prabhupada thanked all the devotees for coming to the festival and participating in Lord Caitanya’s movement.

    (Paraphrasing from memory) he said “You are all young, you have your whole life ahead of you to become Krsna conscious. I am an old man, I am not so fortunate. My notice is already there.

    Finish up your business, become Krsna conscious in this one life and go back home, back to Godhead. Kali Yuga will become more and more terrible. There will be great suffering. Don’t come back.”

    At that point His Divine Grace could no longer speak and tears were in his eyes.

    After a silence, His Grace Hamsadutta Prabhu began leading a kirtana, His Divine Grace rose from the Vyasasana, and, to the accompanyment of his beloved disciples, circumnambulated the Deities within the Temple room and went back to his quarters.

    Your servant,
    Gopinatha Acarya Das

  6. Gopinatha Acarya Prabhu,

    Thank you for this. This is very similar to the quote made in the article, but placed in LA.

    I think most of us are familiar with Srila Prabhupada crying and being stunned while singing Jaya Radha Madhava. Here, in your recollection, there seems to be an instance of feeling for the suffering of humanity. I’m sure there must have been other occasions too, that we do not know about.

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

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